The fact that membership to OBIS has tripled over the past year shows just how urgently we need these fixes. Business owners know that if they can’t find workers soon, they’ll have to close their doors. The decline is happening now. Landscaping companies across the state have stopped taking new orders or they’ve stretched project wait times by months. Meanwhile, American workers in our industry can’t get promoted to higher paying positions because they’re needed on the ground, installing projects, operating equipment, planting, harvesting and other jobs that immigrant workers are typically eager to fill when they first arrive. But the U.S. caps the number of temporary seasonal workers and uses a lottery system to assign them. This causes many garden centers, landscaping businesses and other green companies to close if they can’t access an adequate workforce.
As the CEO of a landscaping firm myself, I feel this anguish every year. I’m among the seven thousand employers who petitioned for 140,000 visas last year. Do you know how many visas are available? Only 33,000. Last year we didn’t get the workers we needed, so we had 14 people doing the work of 20. We ran ourselves ragged, worked longer hours, paid more in overtime, and declined projects that would have grown our bottom line. The losses were huge: if we could fully staff another two crews, that’d bring in another $1 million in sales, create more jobs for Americans and take our business to the next level.